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Mercy Moments: Episode Five

Mercy Moments: Our lives are dripping with mercy.  Indeed, our world is drenched in it.

While visiting with my 3-year-old niece last summer, I quickly began quoting what seemed to be Salome’s answer to everything.  “It’s okay.  No problem,” she would say repeatedly as she simultaneously shook her head and her hand keeping me at a tiny arm’s distance.  The problem of course was that there almost always was a problem, and she was likely the cause of that problem.

Spilled kinetic sand all over the carpet?  It’s okay.  No problem.

Drawing on something that’s not paper? It’s okay.  No problem.

Hitting baby brother on the head?  You guessed! It’s okay.  No problem.

I was present at Salome’s birth.  Imagine if I had used her catchphrase during my sister’s unmedicated labor!

Although it’s fun to mimic Salome’s gestures while quoting her in response to routine daily inconveniences, it does make me wonder if we have collectively been telling the world “It’s okay.  No problem.” in the face of very grave problems.  How have greed, racism, apathy, egocentrism, and a proclivity for violence given rise to the suffering of the most vulnerable populations globally?  And do we care more about injustice when we can relate to the situation?  When it impacts us?  When we can see ourselves in the ones being directly oppressed?

With a 24 hour news cycle that never stops, we are inundated with global conflict from our phone screens, to our televisions, to our social media feeds.  But with recent events in Ukraine, something seems different.  It hits a bit harder.  And I can’t help but think it’s because it affects me – I just paid $4 a gallon at the pump and the Ukrainians I see on the news look like me. 

In recent weeks I’ve found myself sitting at a restaurant crying while I read the closed captions about Ukraine on the TV.  I’ve had nightmares about nuclear war. 

And the connections I have to the War in Ukraine aren’t limited to my screentime. I can find ties to this tragedy all around me. I catch myself remembering some of my former students who went to Ukrainian school on the weekends.  My brother texted that his parish priest just went to Ukraine to rescue 22 orphans.  Family Immigration Services has worked with numerous Ukrainians over the years.  In my brief time at Catholic Charities,

I’ve already worked with several Ukrainian clients and that was before the recent conflict began.  Ukraine is everywhere.  And it should be!  Martin Luther King Jr. famously wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”  This war is surely an injustice with global implications.

But what about other atrocities?

When I learned about genocide in Sudan, it wasn’t from the nightly news.  It was from a social justice club in college.    When I realized the gravity of the Syrian Civil War, it wasn’t during my five-minute morning updates on NPR.  It was from an obscure Documentary Shorts film festival.  When I heard stories about refugees from Bhutan being resettled in Cleveland, it wasn’t from social media.  It was from a Campus Ministry guest speaker.  The Diocese of Jefferson City understood the realities of people experiencing the type of trauma severe enough to compel them to flee their homes when they established The Office of Refugee and Immigration Services in 1975.  And the plight of war refugees wasn’t a new phenomenon 47 years ago either.

Even when we aren’t culpable for the suffering of others, have we been apathetic when it didn’t affect us?  It’s okay.  No problem.  Or in other words, 

Is it okay because it’s not my problem?

This moment in time can be an invitation for reflection, education, and engagement.  Or, since we’re still in the midst of Lent, it can reaffirm our call to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  Maybe mercy isn’t just a gift from the God who embraces us with unconditional grace.  Maybe mercy is also our challenge from the Creator of us all.  How can we show mercy to those who are right now defending and fleeing their homes in Ukraine, to refugees from places we can’t find on a map, to people who are seeking asylum in our own country, and to those suffering all over the world?

Ever mindful that we are never alone as we struggle with questions such as these; may we continue our Lenten pilgrimages grounded in God’s lovingkindness and guided by God’s mercy.

Calling for Mercy

The external work of calling our representatives, giving our time and talents, and supporting works of mercy with our dollars can truly build a better world. The internal work can be just as world-changing, but, in many ways is just as challenging to do. This week we have three ideas that listeners can try to “call for mercy” in their own minds and hearts:

  • Reflect: Journal and pray with the question “How can I show mercy?”
  • Educate: Read articles, watch videos, or listen to podcasts that feature firsthand accounts of immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees.
  • Engage: Start conversations to share what you’ve learned.  Collaborate on how you can build a community of mercy.